Another exciting E3 has come and gone, and four members of the Gamnesia staff had the opportunity to head to Los Angeles for the convention. Over the course of the week we got to go hands-on with many of the fantastic games shown off during the press conferences, and we nominated some of our favorites for the Best of E3 award. We couldn't choose just one winner, so we narrowed it down to three total winners, each with their own category. So without further ado, read on for Gamnesia's Best of E3 winners, as well as the runners-up and honorable mentions.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Best Fighting Game)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is visually similar to the Wii U Smash (or Smash 4), and it also feels familiar in terms of gameplay. However, it's much more than just a port, despite what some fans may think. Smash 4 is a good base to use for comparison, but there are some notable differences worth highlighting.
Everything is smoother, slightly quicker, and also has more of a punch added to it. Even weaker attacks have more of a knock-back than before and the speed that opponents are sent flying has been increased. This does make for some strange scenes where you can be sent flying in one direction quite fast, only to stop suddenly and start going in the direction you're holding once the knock-back distance has been reached. In Smash Bros., players who are knocked back usually start pressing buttons quickly after they've been launched as they want to regain control, and it's not unlikely that Sakurai made this change simply to help players differentiate between when knock-back is in effect, as opposed to player-controlled movement.
Many moves have seen a reduction in lag, Ganondorf's Down-B being a notable example. All Final Smashes have also been sped up. Everything in this game is quick and to the point. There are satisfying slow-motion moments when you connect a big hit that result in KOs where the camera zooms in on the action for just a split second. This is similar to what happens with Little Mac's KO Punch or the Dragoon item, and it's a welcome addition for those who'd like to gloat a little bit extra when getting a good KO.
Likewise, Assist Trophies are more straight-forward in the sense that most of them can now be defeated. Killing an Assist Trophy will now award you with a point or lose your opponent a stock, which can be pretty harsh if you get a poor Assist Trophy (hi, Starfy). However, it adds a layer of depth as you have to make sure you keep on fighting alongside your trophy—you can't just unleash it, sit back, and relax like you could in the past. Top it all up with the return of directional air dodges, and you have a game that is a bit more tactical than in the past. This is a game where your choices matters and button mashing will only get you so far.
New characters include the Inklings and Ridley, both of which were available at E3. The Inkling is a bit of an odd one as many of his/her attacks consume ink. This is reminiscent of Olimar and his Pikmin, so if Olimar wasn't your boy, you might similarly be a bit annoyed with the Inkling—especially since replenishing is done by pressing B while shielding, which isn't very intuitive. Ridley is more straight-forward. He's got decent range and his special attacks help him in the long-range game. Despite the wings, his recovery isn't the best, but he makes up for it in the damage he deals. His Down-B can be absolutely brutal if you sweet-spot it, dealing some 60% in a single hit.
With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you can look forward to is a game that is as fun as any Smash before it and packed with more content than ever. With its massive roster of characters and polished, well thought-out mechanics, it has a chance of really being something that brings together Smash fans from all generations. Whether you've been a fan since the N64 or just picked it up with Smash 4, you should be excited for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate! (Impressions by Hombre de Mundo)
Runner-up: My Hero: One's Justice
Another game to earn a Best of E3 nomination from Gamnesia on the show floor was My Hero: One's Justice from Bandai Namco. Based on the popular manga and anime series My Hero Academia, One's Justice is a 3D fighting game with destructible environments and beautiful, comic book-inspired graphics.
It may not be as mechanically impressive as other games in the genre, but its visual style is a feast and its massive and diverse cast of playable heroes and villains should be endlessly entertaining. As someone who isn't particularly skilled at the genre, I still found it pretty simple to jump into, and devastating my opponent with Todoroki's combination of ice and fire attacks was a blast. This seems like one even casual fans should be able to enjoy. (Impressions by Ben Lamoreux)
3 Minutes to Midnight (Best Indie Game)
E3 is home to the biggest names in gaming, but sometimes the best experiences aren't the ones with the most brand recognition. E3 is also home to indie games hoping to get a foot in the door and share some of that spotlight. The brightest of these newcomers at E3 2018 was 3 Minutes to Midnight, a point-and-click adventure in the style of classic LucasArts games. Set late in the 1940s, 3 Minutes to Midnight follows a plucky young girl named Betty Anderson on her quest to uncover a secret plot to extinguish humanity. Betty, along with everyone else in her once-quiet New Mexico town, has lost her memories.
As with most games in the genre, this means we're off to explore. Thankfully, this is an absolute joy in 3 Minutes to Midnight thanks to its gorgeous art style. The stylized cartoon look is rich in color, and backgrounds have a surprising amount of depth and detail. You'll want to click everywhere and on everything to soak it all in...which is good, because you'll need to find as many collectibles as possible to solve the game's puzzles. In addition to the standard "find out which item goes where" gameplay, 3 Minutes to Midnight spices things up with a crafting system that lets you combine items to create better ones.This might be something simple, like combining a candle with citronella oil to scare away some pesky mosquitoes blocking your path, but there are also more complex and creative uses for crafting. By combining a plunger, a rope, a fire extinguisher, and some pipe, I was able to craft a plunger gun that functions as a hookshot.
The game also features a robust dialogue system with plenty of fun options to choose. Is Betty feeling sassy? Sympathetic? Impatient? Chances are there's a response that conveys whatever emotion you're looking for. Interactions with NCPs can be silly and lighthearted (like haggling with a raccoon over an item he's hoarding in his trash can) or a little more on the dark side. The demo featured a disturbing, knife-wielding girl named Pammy who switches between several distinct personalities, so choose your words carefully! The game's writing is witty and surprisingly deep, and the voice acting is pretty solid as well!
My time with 3 Minutes to Midnight was short but sweet, and it left me craving more. This was Scarecrow Studios' first public showing for the game, but it certainly won't be the last. This is one to keep your eyes on, especially if you're already a fan of the point-and-click adventure genre. (Impressions by Ben Lamoreux)
Another outstanding indie at this year's E3 was Indivisible from Lab Zero Games. This action-platformer features a diverse cast of playable characters fighting their way through an enormous, beautiful world brought to life with hand-drawn graphics. The gameplay is "Metroidvania" in the loosest sense (based on the short demo it felt a little closer to a Shantae or Guacamelee title), but with an action-RPG twist.
Combat is a fast-paced visual feast involving up to four party members at once. Rather than battling enemies on the overworld or using turn-based combat, Indivisible's battle system is somewhat similar to Chrono Trigger. Each member of your party has a bar that fills up automatically, and when it's full you can unleash an attack with a single button press. Alternatively, you can wait a little longer and allow it to fill up multiple times for a combo attack. Each of your four party members attacks with a single button press and fills up their gauge independently, so you can alternate buttons to keep a constant, rhythmic barrage of attacks headed towards your enemies. It's a refreshing change of pace from other games in the genre, and it's definitely got our attention. (Impressions by Ben Lamoreux)
Marvel's Spider-Man (Best Open World Game)
While Sony's new approach to their E3 press conference this year may have come off as less than spectacular, one of the few bright spots of their show was Marvel's Spider-Man. Insomniac's take on the wallcrawler had a major presence at Sony's booth, with a large section of it composed of a huge New York set piece (complete with newspaper racks distributing copies of The Daily Bugle). Once I made it past the hustle and bustle of the showfloor and actually got to play Spider-Man, I was greeted with a sensational open-world action game inspired by one of my favorite heroes. The graphics were amazing, and the voice acting and writing seemed pretty good (I didn't notice any stand-out performances, but I only had the chance to watch one or two cutscenes during my demo). The sprawling map of New York had a variety of different collectibles to obtain and missions to do, including a boss fight. The demo was also very well made in my opinion, with plenty of time to beat up bad guys; I also liked that the time limit was flexible, allowing me one more go at Shocker after dying long after the demo's timer should have elapsed.
What really made Spider-Man shine, however, was the gameplay. Web-swinging through New York felt fluid and natural, and the combat was fun and engaging despite feeling a lot like past superhero games. The combat was heavily focused on attacking waves of enemies and countering when the appropriate indicator was shown, very much like the Arkham games. However, the inclusion of Spidey-specific powers—like a web pull that allows you to grab enemies, or a web shot that allows you to cover enemies in webbing—made it feel more like you were playing as Spider-Man and less like you were playing as Batman in red and blue tights. Much like the traditional combat, the game's stealth combat also felt very Arkham-esque with unique Spidey tweaks. While past trailers had made me afraid that the game would be riddled with quick-time-events, I don't recall seeing a single one in my time with the demo. That doesn't mean that they don't exist in the game, but it makes me believe that they won't overpower the rest of the gameplay in the final release.
As I stated before, the demo culminated with a boss fight against Shocker, who had recently escaped custody and was obviously up to no good. The fight consisted of three distinct phases, each of which required me to utilize different abilities in Spidey's arsenal to avoid Shocker's attacks while waiting for the opportune moment to strike. In order to defeat the boss, I needed to use Spider-Man's web pull ability from earlier in the demo to throw objects at Shocker at opportune times. I felt that the fight was challenging enough, and made good use of one of the Spidey-specific attacks introduced earlier in the game.
Overall, I thought that Marvel's Spider-Man had fantastic gameplay and visuals, and the variety of things to do in the demo made the game superior to other open-world games I played at the show like Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Skull & Bones. All in all, Spider-Man was the ultimate open-world game at the show, and it's definitely a contender for one of the best games at the show. (Impressions by Elijah Holt)
Runner-up: Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion
Jake and Finn's latest adventure is a 3D pirate quest in a flooded open world. The Ice Kingdom has melted, flooding the land of Ooo, and it's up to Finn and friends to retrieve the Ice King's crown and set things right. Pirates of the Enchiridion clearly draws inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and that's not a bad starting point for a fun adventure.
One big difference between the two games is that Adventure Time mixes its action-adventure game with RPG elements, including turn-based combat when enemies are encountered. You'll build up a team of four characters, each with their own special powers, as you explore the land of Ooo and progress the story. Most of my time with the game was spent watching a member of the development team sail around and show off the scenery, but I got to go hands-on for a few minutes at the end, and the game felt and looked great. If you're a fan of Adventure Time, Zelda, or just exploring fun cartoon worlds, you'll want to check this one out. (Impressions by Ben Lamoreux)
It's hard narrowing down the best of E3 to just a few games, and there are plenty of fantastic titles that didn't quite make the list. Two more than deserve some recognition are Mega Man 11 from Capcom and Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Eevee from Nintendo and Game Freak.
The former felt like a return to form for the Blue Bomber, but with some fancy new mechanics and beautiful, modern visuals. The demo was challenging (as any good Mega Man game should be), but not unfair, and I felt like I learned and improved with each death. The new Double Gear mechanic (which allows you to slow down time or fire a more powerful shot) was a welcome addition and didn't feel overused. I came away from my hands-on demo feeling like this is the experience that Mighty No. 9 promised and failed to deliver.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Eevee also deserve some love, and I've written more extensive impressions about them here. The short version of the story is that the Kanto remakes look, feel, and play wonderfully, and Let's Go should be a fantastic treat for new and old fans of the series alike. (Impressions by Ben Lamoreux)